Qwest/AzTEA Innovative Classroom Grant Winners Shine Bright in a Field Excellence

Seventy-Five Applications were received this year.  Thirteen projects were funded by Qwest’s generous donation of $100,000 to AzTEA.

The projects created by the award recipients are distinguished because of their strong foundation in the characteristics of project-based learning, solidly defined SMART goals, community connections, and an emphasis of putting students at the center of the assessment process.  See checklist & rubric.

Next year, there will be a single round with applications due October 3rd.  If applicants submit a project proposal by September 2nd, they will get feedback and suggestions on their work and be able to resubmit.  Listen up for announcements of Qwest/AzTEA grant-writing workshops being hosted in your area.  The workshop will get you solid with Project-Based Learning, give tips and tricks, and get you started on the writing.

Round One Projects Round Two Projects

Woo-Hoo!  Round Three Winners!

Twenty-Eight Applications were received for Round Three of the Qwest/AzTEA grant cycle.

Patti Wann

Track It Storytellers

$5,282.29

Sierra Verde K-8

Deer Valley Unified School District

Alison Burnette

Student-Led IEP’s Using Digital Portfolios

$9,813.27

Sahuaro High School

Tucson Unified School District

Julie Venglarcik

What Does It Mean To Be Green?

$9,970.94

Altar Valley M.S.

Altar Valley School District

Dominique Flamm

World Language Teen Connection, Developing Global Ambassadors

$9,820.00

Sonoran Trails M.S.

Cave Creek Unified School District


Track It Storytellers

Patti Wann

Sierra Verde K-8

Deer Valley Unified School District

$5,282.29



T.R.I.P.S. (Technology-Rich Innovative Project Sharing) is what my 5th grade students have “coined” our “Track It Storytellers” language arts project which integrates reading, writing, math and technology. They plan to design a collaborative storytelling site using wiki software (a/k/a wiki engine) that allows users to collaboratively create and edit web pages using a web browser (http://trackitstorytellers.pbworks.com).

A geocaching component has also been planned to anonymously distribute student-created “shrinky-dink” plastic story elements (plot, character, conflict, theme, setting). Geocaching, also referred to as a global positioning or GPS stash hunt, is a recreational activity in which someone “buries” something for others to try to find using a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. The pursuit can be thought of as a GPS-enabled treasure hunt. Two grade levels at a time (one primary and one intermediate) will be invited to participate in the “on campus” geocaching experience orchestrated by my 5th grade students. Once a participant finds a cache, he/she will (1) choose character, conflict, theme and setting items from the cache, (2) crack the code for accessing their secret co-author who will have the correlating online storytelling page, (3) collaborate online with the mystery co-author to develop an online story with illustrations, and (4) revise/edit until an agreement is reached that they have a quality product that meets the criteria stated in the student-created story outline rubric. The two authors will meet face to face to begin the second step in the evaluation process which includes a self-evaluation of the experience as well as an evaluation using the Six Trait Rubric for Writing.

The “Track It Storyteller” online library will be advertised in the local community to entice a variety of readers to engage in giving feedback using the online student-created feedback rubrics. Student authors will receive student-created animated characters to add to their “online author’s treasure chest” each time they receive feedback on their products. This “cutting edge” web-based collaborative storytelling project is at the forefront of innovation as this mode of interaction has become reality and will continue to flourish. Ms. Wann’s Bio


Student-Led IEP’s Using Digital Portfolios

Alison Burnette

Sahuaro High School

Tucson Unified School District

$9,813.27



Student-led IEP’s (Individualized Education Plans) using digital portfolios allow students with disabilities to present their skills to the IEP team members, their families, classmates, and employers. These videos, created using Apple iMovie, will provide a clear documentation of the student’s progress. Using these presentations at the IEP meeting will provide additional insight for the team and give the student a stronger voice and presence. Students with disabilities at Sahuaro High School in their transition to adult life volunteer at non-profit organizations within the community to gain meaningful vocational skills in an inclusive environment. Video cameras will be used to document the students in action at the volunteer sites. The footage will be incorporated into a personalized video created by the students using multiple Apple programs including iMovie, iPhoto, and Garageband.  The video can then be used as part of the student’s digital portfolio for employers and post-secondary institutions such as Pima Community College and the University of Arizona.

The power of digital media documents the learning progress to a degree that cannot be accomplished in a written or verbal form, which are often too subjective and misunderstood. Students and all other members of the IEP team will be able to visually see progress and skills the student has gained through their experiences. Utilizing this technology, the digital portfolios will display student’s social skills, communication abilities, academic performance, job experiences, and vocational skills. Highlighting the students in this technologically current manner, presents them in the best possible light to team members and the community as a whole. Ms. Burnette’s Bio


What Does It Mean To Be Green?

Julie Venglarcik

Altar Valley Middle School

Altar Valley School District

$9,970.94



Students will explore the driving question, “What does it mean to be green?” Learners will be encouraged to penetrate the jargon of the “green” movement: “reduce, recycle, reuse,” and distill what merits this movement has to offer, determining an answer to the question “what more can (and should) we be doing?”

Learners will self-select research teams and consult with experts in the fields of recycling and renewable energy. Communicating with stakeholders via Skype and maintaining online documentation, they will use technology to research the fields of: solar, water, wind, biomass and geothermal energy technologies. Classroom consults and visits by members of the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance and other resources will be arranged. Learners will also determine potential inroads for reducing school consumption of electricity and water. An integral part of this project will be the publishing of ongoing video documentation to Youtube.com throughout the school year.

Ultimately, our project will be used as a jumping off point for further technology explorations by creating a Lego Robotics Club for our school. The future of renewable energy will be built by learners from Altar Valley Middle School. Mrs. Venglarcik’s Bio


World Language Teen Connection, Developing Global Ambassadors

Dominique Flamm

Sonoran Trails Middle School

Cave Creek Unified School District

$9,820.00



The “World Language Teen Connection” Project recognizes that middle students love one thing: themselves! This project puts 7th graders front and center. It allows them to research authentic websites in French, use their French in front of a camera, author their own French digital stories, and produce relevant multimedia presentations…all using their newly acquired French language skills. By establishing a connection with a middle school in France this program bringing 21st Century relevancy to the student-created projects. The counterpart students in France will simultaneously create projects using their new English skills and the virtual exchange will be technologically rich, meaningful and standards-based.

As these international friendships are created and strengthened, teens from two worlds apart will come to realize that even though there are many differences between them, they are really just teens in today’s shrinking world…teens that actually have much in common. Global ambassadors will be born! Ms. Flamm’s Bio

A Huge Thank You! To the volunteer Reviewers who assisted

Another great reason to be part of AzTEA!

Alison Burnette Alison Burnette is a first year teacher at Sahuaro High School in the Tucson Unified School District. She is a 2010 graduate of the University of Arizona where she obtained a Master of Arts in Severe and Multiple Disabilities and a Bachelor of Science in Special Education. Alison currently works as the job developer at Sahuaro High School where she works with students with disabilities. She assists students in their transition by developing job and volunteer placements within the community to increase vocational skills. Alison wrote this grant to provide students at Sahuaro High School with access to technology to greatly impact their self-advocacy skills.

Julie Venglarcik Born and raised in the Midwest, Julie Venglarcik received her BA in Psychology from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Julie has always pursued and promoted the value of academic excellence. Following a brief stint of employment by the Ohio Dept. of Youth Corrections, Julie recognized the virtue of solid education in guiding children along better paths and pursuits. With that in mind, she obtained her Master?s in Early Childhood education at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA and worked as a Home-school enrichment teacher, as well as homeschooling her own children upon graduating.

Upon moving to Tucson, AZ in 2003, Julie was impacted by the poor state of educational outcomes in the state. Placing her children into the public school system gave her opportunity to explore what was being done well and what she felt could be done better. As such, she continued to further her education and became a “Highly Qualified Teacher” in the State of Arizona, as well as obtaining her provisional gifted endorsement.

Julie resides in Tucson, Arizona with her husband and three children and teaches fifth grade Science, Language Arts/Reading, workplace skills and gifted enrichment at Altar Valley Middle School.

Dominique Flamm My name is Dominique Flamm, and I am the Spanish and French Teacher at Sonoran Trails Middle School. I am originally from France, and came to the United States 27 years ago when I married my American husband. Our two sons were educated in CCUSD. They graduated from the University of Arizona last year. One is a computer science major, and is now working for Microsoft; the other is a creative writing and English major. He just finished an internship at the Arizona state legislature.

Besides studying foreign languages (French, Spanish, English, Latin and Coptic), I also majored in art history, archeology and museology at L’Ecole du Louvre, Paris, where I taught art history to the students who visited the Louvre Museum. I began my career in education 12 years ago at Desert Sun Elementary School teaching Spanish for 2 years. Then I taught 6th grade (3 years) and 4th grade (3 years) at an inner city school. Three years ago, I came back to the Cave Creek School District as a Spanish teacher at Sonoran Trails Middle School. Foreign languages have always been my passion (I am currently learning Italian!), and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue teaching Spanish, and now French also. It is my belief that every student can successfully master another language. This not only creates greater possibilities for future careers, but expands the mind and improves one’s facility with English as well.

Patti Wann Over the last 13 years, I have had many opportunities to work and learn right along with my students. I am forever grateful to each and every one of them for the many intangible gifts and challenges they bestowed upon me which helped me learn and grow as a person as well as further my endeavors to improve myself as a learner and a teacher. I strive to help my students gain as much as possible from my instruction and am always “creating and inventing” new ways to help them enjoy learning as a natural process. It is my belief that the human brain has a love of learning new things and sometimes that love of learning is lost when students progress through school. To encourage enjoyment of life and learning, I celebrate student successes (no matter how small). If they do not succeed the first time I encourage them to view it as a learning experience where they try again until they succeed. I consistently work towards helping them learn that mistakes are an integral part of the facilitation of their learning.

I believe I positively impact students’ lives by providing consistent role-modeling, numerous opportunities for success, rigorous and creative curriculum, and access to choices about their education. To help my students develop autonomy in their learning, I strive to provide real-world opportunities. For example, when I taught in the SAGE program, we became the staff of the Mirage Elementary “Roadrunner Express” (school newsletter). I “hired” them for different positions: editing and layout, journalist, cartoonist, movie critic, advice column, and any other jobs that the students could brainstorm. The parents were very supportive and some have kept in touch with me about their child’s future endeavors related to their elementary newsletter experiences. For example, one of my editing and layout students became the middle school newspaper editor and another one became the middle school news writer and anchor for morning announcements. It was exciting to learn that they were able to take on new challenges later in their school careers.

When I started teaching 5th grade, I developed a mini-economy system and hired students for classroom jobs: character counts officers, desk inspectors, yearbook staff, candy sales, classroom managers, class newsletter, school-wide recycling, computer technicians and more. Every year, students continue to provide advice to improve jobs and the efficiency of the classroom. It is thrilling to them when they see their changes implemented and the improvements provided through those changes. This helps them realize that they are valued members of our school, classroom community and the decision-making process when involved in these real-world experiences.

I have also found that consistent and frequent opportunities for assessing students and having them self-assess is a relevant piece in providing them with appropriate instruction as well as developing their autonomy in the learning process. An example would be when I created the “Basic 4” for my math program. Students were given a placement assessment to figure out what skills they mastered and what skills were needed for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. My team-teaching co-worker and I, parent volunteers, and interns from ASU West provided many opportunities for small group instruction to remediate areas of concern. Groups varied in size (sometimes just one-on-one when needed) and each day the small groups would change depending on each student’s progress. One of the most effective components for the students’ drive to learn and excel was the control we gave them by allowing them the flexibility to choose when they felt ready to “test out” of a group and move on.

We, as adults, strive and learn to meet challenges presented by changes in our society and careers. I noticed this same type of drive when my students took ownership for their learning goals through my math program. They were receiving that needed validation provided by effective feedback given through various types of assessment criteria so they could continue to improve their performance. Multiple ways to assess, coupled with frequent feedback, provided my young learners with important information to help them succeed with their educational goals just as we as adults do in our career endeavors.

I strongly believe that providing a safe learning environment where students work collaboratively and take risks freely without ridicule or negative feedback is my greatest accomplishment. When a student can learn to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and realize that a state of confusion means they are learning something new, then they have become an accomplished “life long learner.”

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Qwest grant | Collardandsons linked to this post.

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